Tuesday 28 February 2017

Laying the Foundation for One Korea (Global Peace Convention 2017)

Global Peace Convention 2017, Manila, Philippines
Moral and Innovative Leadership: New Models of Peace and Development, February 28

o Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat, Director of Geopolitics and International Relations, Manipal University, India
o Dr. Chang-min Shin, Chairman, Tongildaebak Institute for Korean Reunification
o Dr. Young-tae Kwon, Senior Researcher, Global Peace Institute
o Dr. Chan-il Ahn, President, The World Institute for North Korea Studies
o Moderator: Dr. Jai-poong Ryu, Founder/President, One Korea Foundation 

For more on the Global Peace Convention 2017 visit:

Video: Opening Plenary of the Global Peace Convention 2017

Global Peace Convention 2017, Manila, Philippines
Moral and Innovative Leadership: New Models of Peace and Development, February 28

Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat, Director of Geopolitics & International Relations in Manipal University, address at the opening plenary of the Global Peace Convention Philippines 2017.

Global Peace Foundation:
Like us on Facebook:
Follow us on Twitter:

Sunday 26 February 2017


Global Peace Convention 2017
Professor Madhav Das Nalapat

The term, "Christ-Buddha path to Korean unity" refers to the need for the North Korean leadership to show the wisdom of Lord Buddha and for the South Korean side to exhibit the compassion of Jesus Christ. The window for a peaceful unification of an ancient country will close within four years, as by that time, the North Korean Leadership (NKL) would have succeeded in weaponising its nuclear devices and delivery systems sufficient to devastate both Japan and South Korea, a risk impossible to consider, much less accept. Given the immunity that crossing such a nuclear threshold would give the NKL, it would be reasonable to infer that it would seek concessions from the South Korean Leadership (SKL) through baiting it with provocative actions that would impact the business environment in South Korea and therefore the wellbeing of the population of that democratic corner of the globe. Whether it be the NKL or cancer, delay is not an option if the prognosis over a time period below five years is dire. There are, of course, examples of countries that failed to move against their strategic "cancers" in time and paid a price many magnitudes higher than what timely action would have caused. The refusal of France to clear the Rhineland of German troops during March 1936 was the trigger which gave Chancellor Adolf Hitler the confidence that he could occupy large swathes of territory across his borders without provoking a conflict with France or the United Kingdom. Allowing North Korea to operationalize a nuclear attack system capable of inflicting simultaneous and unacceptable harm on Japan and South Korea would be a "Rhineland moment" in East Asia, given that the Kim Jong Un regime is in its own way as much controlled by a single individual not certifiable as wholly rational as Germany was during 1933-45. Because (i) some of the finest scientific talent in the country was literally destroyed through the Holocaust and its initial symptoms (such as the removal of Jews from positions in academia, business and government) and (ii) the National Socialist German Workers Party Fuehrer did not understand the significance of the atom as a weapon of war, thereby causing a slowdown of research into the possibility as compared to the US, the 1939-45 war ended without the multiplication of mass casualties that would have resulted from NSDAP Germany's operationalizing its nuclear weapons. Unfortunately for stability in East Asia, Kim Jong Un is fully cognizant of the fact that only nuclear capability stands between him and the fate of Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, two despots who were defeated and killed after giving up their Weapons of Mass Destruction stockpiles to the very powers that ended their careers and subsequently their lives.

Given the history of regimes that voluntarily surrendered their WMD stockpiles, there will need to be a global effort to ensure that the North Korean Leadership (NKL) is confident that their own top echelon will not meet the fate of their counterparts in Iraq and Libya. A precondition for such confidence will need to be a United Nations Security Council resolution that has been endorsed by each of the five UNSC Permanent Members, especially the United States. Hence the need for Washington to show a degree of compassion that brings to memory the inexhaustible capacity for forgiveness of Christ, who forgave even Peter despite the latter repudiating him thrice before the dawn. While Korean unity is a matter for the people of that (presently divided) country, it can come about only in the context of the underwriting of the conditions set for union by the major powers, so as to obviate the worry about another Iraq or Libya moment, where elements of the global community turn on the NKL even after the union of the two sides. Hundreds of thousands have died and millions of the innocent are suffering because of the unwillingness of the United States during the1950s Korean war to use enough of the means at its command to complete the task of unification rather than leaving the same incomplete. Militarily, it is doubtful that China would have been able to continue its support for Kim Il Sung were the allied forces to have launched air attacks on Beijing, Shanghai and other population clusters during the conflict, as asked for by some of the allied commanders in the course of the campaign. And without such backing, as also assistance from the Soviet Union, it would not have been possible for Kim Il Sung to retain control over what is now the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).Unfortunately, more than a few of the strategic thinkers and planners in the US (as also most of its NATO partners) are neither willing to use a sufficient volume of accessible kinetic force to ensure an equilibrium result ( i.e. an outcome, the consequences of which remain stable over time) or to adopt the contrary tactic of persuasion through concessions that are of the quality and range needed to get a stable result. Since its inception, the DPRK has been confronted with military foes that decline to use more than an attenuated quantum of their strength against the NKL, with the consequence that the only effect has been to slow down but not reverse the progression of the DPRK and its leadership towards the possession of WMD of unacceptably high levels of lethality. Certainly there have been efforts at persuading the NKL to halt its steps towards unacceptable levels of lethality, but none of these has been of sufficient depth or credibility to ensure a genuine change of course.
Indeed, most have literally been "too little, too late", or concessions made that could have been decisive in earlier circumstances, but which are ineffective because of the (delayed) time that they were made.

The prescription of a "Christ-Buddha" path towards Korean reconciliation and unity is based on
(a) the "Buddha" element comprises of the reality of the NKL being wholly rational in its responses to the external environment, whatever may be the errors in its domestic policies. Clearly, the Kim family understands the perceptions and likely responses of the international community towards specific actions even while it does not take seriously the needs of the population living within the DPRK. That being the case, it would be unrealistic to assume that any change in the internal circumstances of the DPRK consequent to the imposition of wide spectrum sanctions by the RoK and its allies would effect a shift in NKL behaviour. Indeed, the policy of imposing a quarantine on the DPRK has sheltered the regime by depriving its population of contact with the external environment on a scale sufficient to overcome faith in the disinformation peddled by the NKL to its own people. If the "Sunshine Policy" had a fault, it was that it operated as if it were the sunshine found not in the bright daylight but the faded aura of twilight. What was needed (at the time of its initiation by Kim Dae-Jung in 1998, and which continued in a somewhat haphazard fashion until 2008; Haphazard because there were patches of “darkness" in the form of actions directed against the DPRK) was a policy of Bright Sunlight rather the intermittent "twilight" level of sunlight associated with the "sunshine" policy. While there were periods of "sunlight", these were often followed by an opposite approach, in a manner that gave rise to differing interpretations about causation. The waning and waxing of the influence of different political factions on the actions of the Republic of Korea (RoK) government were seen by Pyongyang as the cause of several of these policy shifts, and the NKL calculated that these were alterations over which it had little sway. Hence the "sunshine policy" was not regarded by Pyongyang as being "bright" enough or steady enough to warrant a fundamental shift in approach towards the ROK. Taken as an entirety, the responses of the Kim family regime to changing external pressure and stimuli were fully rational, and hence the confidence that the North Korean Leadership (NKL) may be expected to accept a set of policies that included the protection of the individual interests and futures of its key human components. Such a verifiable assurance would be a non-negotiable component of a future DPRK-RoK agreement on Korean unity.

(b) The "Christ" element references the imperative of forgiveness by the South Korean Leadership (SKL) of the deeds of the North Korean Leadership (NKL). Although this may seem to be an escape clause for the NKL, in reality the justification vests in the compassion so well merited by the Korean people, who have uninterruptedly from 1945 to the present undergone substantial tranches of trauma as a consequence of the division of a single people into two separate and mutually hostile entities. The option which would reduce to levels acceptable to populations resident in a democracy as evolved as the RoK would be that of peaceful unification through a facilitatory agreement between the two sides. There will be - and are - voices both within the RoK as well as in other countries allied to Seoul which call for accountability through punishment (proportional or otherwise) for the deeds of the NKL. In the absence of a negotiated and peaceful settlement of differences, such an insistence on accountability would entail not simply a cost limited to the NKL but would carry the risk of significant collateral damage to millions of innocent lives across the region, including within the RoK and Japan. This is because such a stance would make conflict inevitable. Hence the need to accept that more than accountability, what is needed is to ensure that more innocent lives not be ruined deliberately or otherwise by the actions of either side. In this context, there is need to mention that several hundred thousand residents of the DPRK have been adversely affected by the punitive measures implemented by the RoK and its allies on the DPRK, even while the NKL (which is the actual perpetrator of the deeds in retaliation for which coercive measures have been employed) seems not to have suffered any diminution in its standard of living.

Assuming that Korean unity comes about as a consequence of negotiation in a climate of peace, China would need to be a key element in such talks. While both the "sticks" as well as the "carrots" used by the RoK and its allies in relation to the DPRK are usually of a nature less than consequential, in the case of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), the substantive i.e. non-verbal "sticks" have been of very low-wattage, while the "carrots" have been significant even for such early-phase deeds as ensuring that the DPRK comes to the negotiating table. Once there, it has almost always been the case that Beijing believes that its work has been done, when the reality is that such a step needs to be only the start of actions by the PRC that would have the effect of ensuring compliance by the DPRK of the demands of other elements of the international community. In the absence of such additional (or follow up) measures by China, talks with the DPRK resemble a rubber band denoting compliance that gets stretched by the talks and its immediate aftermath, but soon afterwards reverts to its original position. The RoK and its allies, including Tokyo and Washington, need to devise and implement a menu of actions designed to provide an impetus to the PRC to commit itself to the full range of measures needed to ensure that the North Korean Leadership (NKL) come to the conference table with the intention of a settlement that is satisfactory to both sides, the ideal form of which would be a formula for unification of the divided peninsula. In other words, while there must be a reward for peace and its promotion, there needs to be a more than proportionate cost inflicted on those entities that weaken the impetus for peace by giving assistance to groups and interests standing in the way of a non-confrontational settlement of intra-Korean issues. In the case of China, while the "carrots" have multiplied with each (cripplingly incomplete) gesture of support to peace efforts, except for a few verbal sallies or symbolic gestures such as giving recognition to dissidents, the sticks have disappeared since the Nixon's outreach to the PRC in 1972, a policy deepened under President Jimmy Carter and his Russo-phobic, Moscow-centric National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brezezinski. In this background, the outreach to Moscow by President Donald J. Trump is welcome, in that neutrality by the Russian Federation in the event of a military solution by the RoK and its allies to the issue of Korean unification would greatly increase the speed of success of such an initiative.

The question has sometimes been asked as to why the North Korean case presents a more immediate challenge than does that of Pakistan, a country that is as much a Proxy Nuclear Weapons State (PNWS) as the DPRK. Both were given the means to develop their nuclear and missile systems to a level that would present a grave threat to Japan (in the case of the DPRK) and India (in the case of Pakistan. To a third country objectively less than friendly to India or Japan, such a situation would have the advantage of both Tokyo as well as Delhi regarding Pyongyang and Islamabad respectively as a much graver threat than the country which is responsible for both these countries becoming nuclear weapons states. That country would also benefit as a consequence of the expenditure of effort and expense by Tokyo and Delhi against their respective Proxy Nuclear Weapons State challengers, leaving that much less oxygen to power responses to the country responsible for both North Korea as well as Pakistan having both nuclear weapons as well as delivery systems despite a technological and industrial base far below that needed to evolve into such a state on their own. Of the two, the DPRK represents the greater immediate challenge, because of the hermit-like nature of the NKL led by Kim Jong Un, whose financial, social and other linkages with the world outside the boundaries of the territory controlled by them is of a very low intensity. In contrast, whether it be (often undeclared)foreign bank accounts, homes or relatives, the higher ranks of the Pakistan army (which controls the country's nuclear and missile systems) have extensive interaction with the rest of the globe, including (and indeed principally) the United States. This gives a much greater probability of predictability to the actions of these globally-linked individuals than is the case with the higher echelons of the (largely delinked from global contacts) DPRK bureaucracy. Indeed, it is the relative opacity and unpredictability of the North Korean Leadership (NKL) that enhances the risk of an unplanned initiation of a sequence of actions that could terminate in the use of nuclear weapons.

This is not to say that the problems posed by the Pakistan army's possession of nuclear weapons and delivery systems are on a scale susceptible to being ignored. Although both India as well as the United States have individually sought to influence the behaviour patterns of the military in Pakistan in such a way as to be potentially non-lethal to other states (principally Afghanistan and India), such an effort would have a much higher chance of success were Delhi and Washington to coordinate their actions in the matter. In particular, Delhi and Washington need to work towards encouraging the professionalization of the Pakistan military, by making it subordinate to the civilian leadership of the country. Both the world's largest democracies also need to work towards ensuring that all ethnic and religious groups in Pakistan be treated equally, and that the hegemony of a particular group over the rest be ended. In the case of the DPRK and its policies, this is being dealt with by a coalition with Japan, the RoC and the US at its core, although even here, the level of consultation and joint activity between the three capitals is still far less than what is needed to ensure a significant degree of success in altering the longstanding behaviour patterns of the NKL. In the geopolitical universe of threats in which Japan and the RoK find themselves, it is a given that an anti-missile system (perhaps on the lines of Israel's Iron Dome) needs to become operational. However, the governments involved explaining the rationale for such indispensable defensive steps has been less in evidence, with the consequence of arise in public perception of the introduction of THAAD by stealth. The consequence has followed that it has been easier for "men in the shadows" to generate opposition within civil society in both Japan as well as the RoK for such a missile defense system, through creating the perception that THAAD would bring war closer, when in fact the deployment of this system would make the initiation of a conflict by the other side much less likely. Which indeed is the primary reason why the "other side" strongly disapproves of such a deployment, thereby indicating that its lead operational plans prominently include the option of a first strike using missile systems, including potentially those equipped with nuclear warheads.

Given the chemistry of the North Korean Leadership (NKL), it would be an inexcusable dereliction of responsibility by the current regimes in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo to allow Pyongyang to graduate to the stage where Pakistan is now situated as a consequence of past inaction by Washington and Delhi, that of having nuclear weapons (rather than simply devices) as well as delivery systems capable of inflicting unimaginable harm on potential adversaries. Once the DPRK reaches the stage of weaponising its nuclear warheads and mastering technology sufficient to convey the same to "enemy" shores, any incentive for unification would get considerably weakened. Hence the window for serious and sustained discussions on the subject is the present, with both the carrot and the stick (in capitals) visible to the North Korean Leadership (NKL). The "stick" would be the putting in place of a military alliance which would include Vietnam, Taiwan and India that would be designed to ensure that regimes in sympathy with Pyongyang factor in the risks of outright involvement. An operational plan needs to be prepared that would take out the Higher Command structure of the DPRK within 72 hours of initiation. The heavier the initial blow, the lower will be the overall damage caused by the conflict, and planners need to factor in this desideratum. The "carrot" would include a complete and lifetime amnesty for the North Korean Leadership, as well as recognition through adjustments in protocol of a high (albeit honorary) status within the unified state. The time has come to test both the "Wisdom of the Buddha" on the part of the NKL and the "Compassion of Christ" on the part of the SKL through the initiation of discussions based on new postulates that are underscored by the centrality of the need to avoid further damage to the public weal as a consequence of the continuation of the unnatural division of a noble people.'

The above is a prepared presentation for the Global Peace Convention 2017. Changes in actual delivery may not be reflected.

A Shah Bano betrayal, this time in Nagaland (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

33% reservation for women in local body polls was opposed as ‘anti-Christian’.
It was not only a sympathy vote, which in 1984 catapulted Rajiv Gandhi into enjoying a greater majority in the Lok Sabha than even his grandfather or mother. It was the popular expectation of change, no longer in the form of a reversion to the past, but a long-awaited move towards 21st century systems and practices. Unfortunately, the bulk of the personnel and the policies of Rajiv’s government were the same stale concoction from the past. Voters in India have become used to politicians who won their votes on the promise of a forward-looking change, but who revert to past ways and personnel once elected. What concretized the perception that Rajiv was a policy “oldie” in newbie garb, was his response to the Shah Bano decision of the Supreme Court. In an Orwellian act of doublespeak, the bill that took away the financial rights in the divorce of Muslim women was named the “Muslim Women Protection of Rights in Divorce Act 1986”, an edict accepted as legal despite its discriminating between women of different communities in what was often the most consequential decision of their lives. Had the country’s 42-year-old Prime Minister stood up to the handful of fundamentalists who were protesting against the Shah Bano verdict, had Rajiv Gandhi mobilised moderate Muslim opinion (led among others by Arif Mohammad Khan) against those seeking to keep women enchained through a false interpretation of the Quran, even the Bofors scandal would not have been sufficient to drag his popularity down to below Lok Sabha majority levels. From the time he got passed the Muslim Women’s Act and lost the “reformist” label, from the time he brought forward a Defamation Law in 1988 that converted the media into his foe, Rajiv Gandhi inevitably headed towards the electoral disaster of 1989. Sadly, there have been multiple instances where politicians have forfeited the favour of their constituencies by being timid and cautious once elected to high office, rather than energetic in seeking change, not simply around the edges, but at the core of governance practices and systems. Small wonder that as yet India has not witnessed a shift in the governance structure to 21st century practices. There was an expectation in 2014 that Narendra Modi would initiate a full-scope shift to innovative processes in the government at the very start of his term, and those who have faith in the Prime Minister’s commitment to his poll promise of “Minimum Government” are hopeful that a comprehensive reset of the mechanism of governance will be carried out by Modi before the 2019 polls.
Because of his Shah Bano-related surrender to obscurantists, Rajiv Gandhi gave oxygen and worse, respectability, to religious fundamentalists that has proved costly for the public interest. Women in India are often still subjected to discrimination and to neglect. A Prime Minister who asked for votes on the promise of change was expected to stand up for their interests, rather than side with those eager to ensure the continued subordination of women to patriarchal mores. Since the Muslim Women’s Act, three decades have passed and last week’s developments in Nagaland indicate that equality of the sexes is as elusive in 2017 as it was in 1986. Not, of course, that the shabby treatment meted out to women in that state by a group of male supremacists has created any great stir in a media that continues to ignore the Northeast of the country, even when a Chief Minister kills himself and leaves behind a suicide note that remained almost forgotten, until the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court stepped forward to treat it with the seriousness which the law mandates for a missive written from the edge of the grave.
In the Nagaland case, the now former Chief Minister, T.R. Zeliang, sought to ensure 33% reservation for women in the forthcoming local body polls. This was opposed, oddly enough, on the grounds that such a policy was “anti-Christian” and “infringed on Naga laws and practices”. It may be remembered that the Shah Bano judgement was opposed by male supremacists as being “anti-Muslim” and “against Muslim laws and practices”. In most parts of the world, the Christian community is easily among the most modern and fair to women, but not, it would seem, in Nagaland. Propelled by anti-equalitarian instincts, self-proclaimed “tribal elders” (naturally all male) began to agitate for the proposed women’s reservation to get shelved, and for the Chief Minister to be forced out. It is extraordinary that Nagaland has never had a lady MLA throughout its existence, a fact that should make the “elders” ashamed, rather than jubilant. Should the state and Central governments remain passive at the way in which justice has been denied in this matter to Naga women, they would be sending a signal that would embolden cultural troglodytes across the country to intensify efforts at propelling society in a reverse direction to 21st century needs.
Indeed, there should be 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha as well, through a constitutional amendment creating two-member constituencies in a third of Parliamentary seats, that would allot the two seats in each such constituency to the male and the female candidate with the largest number of votes. Such a method would do away with the heartburn that would result were any existing Lok Sabha seats to be reserved exclusively for women candidates. Electing more women would add to the quality of debate and improve the atmosphere of the Lok Sabha as well as the state legislatures. As for the Rajya Sabha and the Vidhan Parishads, here too a third of the seats should be made dual member constituencies, with those male and the female candidates getting the highest number of votes being elected to such seats.
The Nagas are a modern people, and most are no longer bound by “tribal elders” who represent values hostile to modernity. Unlike the Shah Bano surrender of 1986, will 2017 witness another climb-down, or justice for women? For that is what should prevail, not merely in Nagaland, but elsewhere, including through abolishing the cruel practice of triple talaq.

Friday 24 February 2017

Demonising Trump to block Le Pen (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

TO paraphrase Marx and Engels, a spectre is haunting Europe: the surging popularity in France of its future Head of State, Marine Le Pen . Given the essentiality of France in the architecture of the present-day European Union, a victory for the statuesque daughter of National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen would drive a stake into the heart of the present EU, forcing the organisation to either dissolve or to re-invent itself. The EU can survive the withdrawal of Britain, which has ever been the outlier in the community, with its interventions often causing more angst than satisfaction amongst its partners.
However, from the 1950s, France has teamed up with Germany to form the foundation of the European experiment, which matured into the formation of the EU in 1993. Since then, the union’s bureaucracy in Brussels has intruded into the policy matrix of each of the 28 countries that form the European Union. This was acceptable to the populations of the richer of the members so long as incomes were increasing and lifestyles improving. However, partly as a consequence of regulatory micromanaging by the EU commissioners, the only West European country that has remained unscathed from East Asian competition has been Germany, which has had the benefit of the Euro being much lower in value than the Deutsche Mark would have been, had Germany gone the way of Britain and retained its own currency.
The addition of hundreds of thousands of settlers more from the Middle East and North Africa on top of the millions already present has alarmed the French, who as a people are proud of their heritage and emancipated lifestyles. Marine Le Pen makes no apologies for being mono-culturally French in a manner that is allergic to North African ways, the way Donald Trump refuses to be defensive about being a uni-cultural American. While such a trait endears them to millions of their fellow countrypersons, it is toxic to “liberals” who believe in the right of refugees and migrants from failed states to live as they please, where they please, and in as great numbers as they can muster. While the same experts who were wrong about the winn-ability of Donald Trump are now forecasting that Le Pen will fade out in the second round of the Presidential elections, when she tees off against either Macron or Fillon.
However, the fact is that Le Pen’s entry into the second round will result in a flocking to her candidature by the many who till then may not have been convinced that the attractive French politician had any chance at winning, and hence did not wish to “waste” their vote on the individual who is today the most popular politician in Europe, eclipsing Angela Merkel after the latter’s Open Door policy towards migration from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan into Germany. This is similar to what happened in the case of Donald Trump, who witnessed a huge tranche of previously Democratic Party voters flock to him after he won the Republican nomination, voters who had previously assumed that Trump had no chance of victory.
That Le Pen may win in May is what is scaring the Wall Street-Atlanticist establishment, who do not wish to see the perquisites enjoyed by them for decades of dysfunctional structures such as the EU Headquarters or NATO vanish in a post-Marine Le Pen, post Geert Wilders reconfiguration of the European experiment. The weapon of choice used by the Atlanticist establishment to try and turn enough French voters away from Le Pen in the final round of the Presidential polls to ensure her defeat is a frenzied attack on Donald Trump. The 45th President of the United States has been subjected to a barrage of abuse from self-certified “civilised” individuals that lacks any parallel in the democratic world since 1945.
While it is the Atlanticist policy of equipping extremists with weapons that is insane, this establishment seeks to call out Donald Trump as unsound and even unstable for refusing to go that route. And while it is plainly China that has emerged as the most potent challenger to US primacy, Atlanticists within the US pander to their European ideological twins ,who continue to demonize Russia as though no change of consequence happened during 1991-97. Should the Trumps, the Wilders and the Le Pens succeed in changing national policies to those more relevant to 2017 than to 1945, the Atlanticist establishment will get replaced by an Indo-Pacific construct.
To prevent such a change, they are in the battle of their lives, Round One of which was lost on November 8.2016 when Donald Trump got elected as the President of the US. Round Two, involving Marine Le Pen, needs to ensure her defeat if the Old Order and its sinecures is to survive for at least a decade more. And what better way to spook French voters from the National Front than to create a perception of chaos in Washington after the Trump victory and warn that to would be the same in Paris ? That there is no chaos in the Trump presidency, only the usual hurly-burly of a new administration, is not being permitted to stand in the way of the creation of a media frenzy, the core message of which is intended to persuade French, Dutch and other European votes not to go the way of the US in replacing personnel and policies with those better suited to the imperatives of the 21st century.
In particular, Paris, London and Frankfurt are looking to Beijing to bail Athens out of a mega loan default later in the year through China ponying up several hundred billion euro to fill the hole left in European banks by Greek debt. They are looking to China for markets and investment. Hence a manic drumbeat of allegations against Russia, so that China gets spared from public obloquy. A campaign of calumny against Moscow is in effect a silent defence of Beijing, and in such an effort, the UK is in the lead. The EU is also looking for funding for its bankrupt agencies from the Arab powers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, hence the cries to remove Bashar Assad from power, even if presently this benefits Daesh.
The Atlanticists fear to acknowledge that the condition of the EU and several of its institutions is terminal, hence the hysterical attacks on Trump and others unwilling to keep holding on to destructive policies. These accept the verities of the present era that the traditional establishment mislabels as “Fake News”. This threshing about in an abusive frenzy of the circa-1945 Atlantic Alliance establishment will neither result in the removal of President Trump nor slow down the drive towards victory of Marine Le Pen, who will thereupon be joined by other leaders across Europe who recognize that policies based on 20th and even 19th century conditions are valueless and indeed harmful in the 21st.

Saturday 18 February 2017

‘China first’ challenge to US primacy (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
China is a far bigger challenge to US primacy than a depleted Russia.

If there is ever an improved version of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, it will be the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that prepares the script. Throughout much of the 1930s, Mao Zedong convinced several of his US interlocutors that he was not really a communist, but merely a peasant leader opposing a corrupt feudal hierarchy. During 1941-43, the Chairman persuaded Franklin Roosevelt to make available vast amounts of weaponry and other supplies by convincing official Washington that it was his men, and not those under KMT supremo Chiang Kai-shek, who were effective against the Japanese. Mao was helped in this by Stalin, who by that time had pitched his tent firmly with Mao after an earlier dalliance with the KMT. Soon after Mao succeeded in driving Chiang and his army from the Chinese mainland and successfully concluded the Korean war with Soviet help, the CCP chief began to challenge the leadership of Moscow over the international communist movement, and with increasing vehemence once Nikita Khruschev took over the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). By the close of the 1960s, relations between Moscow and Beijing were so frayed that Mao soon reached out to the US and fashioned an alliance that continued for the next three decades, on the way enabling China to emerge as the world’s second-largest economy and a formidable military power. Although Jiang Zemin was comfortable in the role of being the global second in command to the US, during his second term, Hu Jintao began to distance his country in a marked manner from US strategic interests. Now, Xi Jinping is proceeding on a path designed to ensure that Beijing becomes the primary power on the planet, even seeking to create a common Eurasian entity brought together by the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project.
From the founding of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to the present, the leaders of the CCP have followed a policy of “China First”, which means not merely placing the interests of their vast country over those of any other, but continuously striving to ensure that China reclaims its space as the primary power on the planet, a rank that it possessed for at least two millennia before being challenged for the spot by other powers, such as the Roman Empire, the British Empire and most recently by Pax Americana. Since the start of the 1914-19 European war, there began a process of enervation of the European powers, a process accelerated by the 1939-45 conflict between the Axis and the Allies. It was no accident that the Bretton Woods conference decided that the three global organisations formed in the aftermath of the latter war would all be headquartered in the US, with the International Bank for Reconstruction & Development and the International Monetary Fund getting based in Washington and the United Nations Organisation in nearby New York. However, the 21st century has not been kind to the US, with its forces being denied victory even against derisory powers such as the irregulars doing battle with NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2008 financial meltdown entirely caused by financial entities within the Atlantic Alliance destroyed the trust in their financial institutions that had been the mainstay of investments by the rest of the world into them. The CCP saw an opportunity and moved in, seeking, for example, to ensure that the Renminbi (RMB) join the US dollar and the Euro as the primary global reserve currencies. In almost every location where the US was in retreat, there was a corresponding (if diplomatically silent) advance by China, so much so that Beijing has become the primary power in the calculus of almost as many states as the US still is. The process began under Bill Clinton and was taken note of by the successor (Bush II) administration, but 9/11 resulted in a veering away from a retrieval of primacy in the face of the Chinese challenge to a quagmire in the Wahhabi swamps of South Asia and the Middle East. It needs to be added that the CCP genuinely believes that Chinese primacy would ensure a “Win Win” outcome on the principle of “What’s good for China is good for the world” as also, “What’s good for the CCP is good for China”.
The European Union, aware that its hold over US strategic policy hinges on Washington continuing with the Cold War habit of seeing Moscow as the principal foe, has worked hard during the preceding decade to ensure a continuity in such a policy, despite the obvious. That China is a far bigger challenge to US primacy than a depleted Russia. Being outside the realms of government and in business, where success hinges on adherence to actually prevailing—and altering—conditions, Donald Trump has for some time been in the role of the child who calls out that the “emperor” ( denoting a largely unchanged Cold War approach to Moscow) has no “clothes”, i.e. justification. However, this has come up against the many “courtiers” whose continued prominence hinges on calling out that on the contrary, the emperor is clothed in the most majestic and elaborate of garments. It is these who are seeking to reduce Trump into a “lame duck” status within a month of his being sworn in, including by conflating events involving Putin’s Russia, in the process providing camouflage for China to operate without serious challenge. However, should President Trump succeed in fending off efforts at destroying his salience as the Chief Executive of his country, it will within a couple of years at most become obvious to the US voter that it is not Moscow that is the primary threat, but the effects of the “China First” policy of the leadership core of the Chinese Communist Party. Aware of this reality, the backers of the Cold War focus on Russia across both sides of the Atlantic will almost certainly intensify their efforts at neutering the 45th President of the US. After all, so long as Russia is the principal threat, it will be Germany and France on the European continent that are the key partners of the US. Once the beam falls on China, that role will shift to Japan and India, an outcome unwelcome to the major European powers.

Friday 17 February 2017

‘Note ban’ not enough to win voters for Modi (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat |Geopolitical Notes From India

It has been calculated that the Chief Minister of a moderately prosperous Indian state can amass more than $ 600 million a year, with his or her ministers not far behind. Last week, an Income Tax Department raid on a legislator in Bangalore belonging to the Congress Party netted nearly $ 20 million in cash in his house alone. The amount of money kept in other locations may be much larger. Although every once in a way, courts in India send a politician to jail for amassing wealth “disproportionate to income”, given the large scale prevalence of corruption within politicians and officials, such arrests have only had a negligible effect on the behaviour of those holding important posts within the government. Meanwhile, the citizenry labour under twin weights of taxes and bribes.
India has a substantial “informal” economy, and it was to extinguish this that Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepted the advice of the Reserve Bank of India Governor, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and the Revenue Secretary of the Ministry of Finance to withdraw from circulation the Rs 1000 note as well as the Rs 500 note, thereby taking away 86% of the country’s currency. This columnist was asked by a high-level official about the November 8,2016 “Note Ban” the next day. His response was that this would ensure that the BJP tally in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls fell to below three figures ie to 99 seats in the Lower House of Parliament or less. Of course, several Union Cabinet ministers regard the Note Ban as a sure-fire vote getter.
On Match 11,when the results of five state assembly polls are out, the country will know if such optimism is justified. The withdrawal of currency notes has become the single biggest issue during the election. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of small units belonging to the “informal” sector have closed down as a consequence of demonetisations. Although the “informal” sector is under attack by the central government for not paying taxes. What officials forget is that almost all such units pay huge amounts in cash to politicians and officials, who will still demand the same amount even if such units pay taxes to the state. Many such units will thereafter have to close down, as they will not be able to afford taxes plus bribes the way larger units do.
Millions have lost their jobs because an economy which functioned on the basis of cooperative coexistence between the formal and informal sector has now seen the latter largely wiped out in several locations because of the zeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure a “cashless” economy on the model of Sweden. Being a master politician, the Prime Minister surely knows that he has run a huge political risk by going in for the Note Ban. Across the country, angry citizens are complaining of having to waste hours standing in line at banks, only to be told that there is no cash in the branch. This columnist went to 27 ATMs during the past four days, in only one of which was there cash.
The small sector in India operates on very low margins, and given that the quantum of bribes has not come down after the November 8 measure, many units have closed their shutters as they cannot afford to pay taxes in addition to bribes. Had the government ensured that bribes were blocked, the public would have welcomed the Note Ban. However, those who asked for money in the past continue to do so now, although a few have given the concession of asking for payment only after the new Rs 2000 notes become available in significant amounts. India is probably the only country in the world where the price of petrol at the pump has gone up despite a fall in the world price of oil from $ 130 a barrel to $ 40 now. The gain to the Union Government from this has been estimated at over Rs 200,000 crores.
The public have yet to feel any benefit from this huge windfall, and because they are still being charged high prices for petrol, are angry that the benefits of the lower international price of oil has not been passed on to them. Had it been, the cost of several commodities would have come down. In particular, the cost of transportation would have been sharply reduced, instead of being higher than they were before oil prices started to plummet. Although Prime Minister Modi was expected to lower tax rates, this has yet to happen, with the result that the urban middle class in the cities is not happy about the direction of policy. Modi is known to work more than 16 hours a day and sleep only for two hours or three on several nights. However, despite such efforts, the change actually experienced by the citizen is still regarded by many as not high enough to justify the huge expectations of the people when Modi was sworn in on May 26,2014.
Will such a mood have an effect in the five states holding elections, and the others to follow next year? March 11 will tell. The formal and informal economies depend on each other in India. For example, much of the petrol which provides such huge returns to the central exchequer through indirect taxes is bought using cash. The overwhelming majority of those using only cash are from the poorer elements of society. Conversely, commercial banks are routinely used to launder vast sums of money, including by under-invoicing exports and over-invoicing imports, with the difference flowing to Swiss bank accounts. Several exports from India are to shell companies that almost immediately resell them to actual buyers at a much higher price than what has been shown in the books of the company making the initial export.
In much the same way, such mega items as commercial and military aircraft have been bought by companies and government at prices much higher than those offered to some other countries. To take a single example, Air India is reported to have bought several aircraft from a foreign manufacturer at prices much higher than was paid by two private airlines, Go Air and Indigo, and at almost the same time. There are hundreds of such instances that remain ignored by the authorities. The “Note Ban” will do little to prevent such anomalies, as all transfers in such deals are made through banks. The demonetisation has shown that there is no single “magic bullet” towards the ending of corruption. Prime Minister Modi will need to work hard before 2019 and its national election to convince voters in India that the Note Ban or indeed the thus far seemingly less than satisfactory Special Investigative Team on Black Money are not his only weapons in the battle against corruption by officials and politicians.

Saturday 11 February 2017

March 11 is an early indicator of 2019 polls (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat

If the ongoing Assembly results prove disappointing for the BJP, there will be a significant impact at the Central level.
After having worked for decades to see the back of the British in India, it was not expected of those in whose hands the country found itself that they would so completely embrace the constructs left behind by the Raj. Whether it be the Constitution of India, in which the influence of British-era edicts is visible, or the eerily unchanged legal and administrative framework of governance, there was a continuity that mocked those who had expected a complete makeover once 15 August 1947 dawned. Seven decades on, it would be reasonable to wonder whether the fealty to the British colonial model shown by India’s freedom fighters was indeed the better course for this country to take, or whether there needed to be changes designed to ensure a better representation of the citizenry than occur in contests where the winner often secures less than 20% of the total of voters. Given the need to ensure the election of those not tied to narrow segments of the electorate, it may have been better for the framers of the Constitution to have decreed a two-part electoral process, with the first two contenders in the first round battling against each other in the second, so that the winning candidate represents a much bigger cross-section of the voters than may be the case under the undiluted Westminster system adopted in India. In the administration, rather than continue the Imperial Civil Service under a new name, it may have been preferable to institute a more flexible system in which accountability was high, much higher than now, when hardly a few of those in the IAS get removed from service for unsatisfactory service. 
Indeed, if an examination were conducted of the “confidential reports” of IAS officers, almost all of them would be “outstanding”, the worst being merely “good”. It is a mystery as to why India is still so much of a laggard, despite having such an “outstanding” civil service, which seems most expert in inserting itself into every high level crevice of government. The Indian Police Service (IPS) is not far behind, having, for example, displaced the military from leadership and control of the “paramilitary” formations set up since the 1950s, and which should therefore get renamed as “para police” formations. 
Although Narendra Modi was expected to change several of these practices and procedures, thus far the Prime Minister has moved with caution, except on demonetisation, where on 8 November 2016 he took a step that bears comparison only to the adoption by India of the Soviet economic model by Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s. The election results that will be out on 11 March will be a test of the political impact of the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and (old) Rs 500 notes, as this is a measure that has affected every citizen. Should Modi be correct in assuming the step to be a winner, his party would win in Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and Uttar Pradesh and even narrowly in Punjab. However, should the measure be viewed as toxic by the voter, the BJP may be far short of a majority in UP, lose its majorities in Goa and Punjab, and cede Manipur and Uttarakhand to the Congress Party. In the latter, Chief Minister Harish Rawat has donned the robes of the “anti-incumbent”, warning voters that a BJP victory would ensure the return of Vijay Bahuguna as CM. In other words, the incumbent is seeking to cash in on anti-incumbency sentiment, the archetypical “incumbent” being not the present CM himself, but former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, memories of whose tenure as CM are still strong in the minds of Uttarakhand voters. While caste, community and ideology still play a role in deciding electoral fortunes, the 8 November 2016 withdrawal of 86% of India’s currency is the issue that will decide the fate of the BJP in either of two ways. Give the party a massive win, should the measure be popular the way the BJP believes it to be. Or cause an electoral disaster, the way even its former backer Nitish Kumar regards it as being likely to. Importantly, the effects of demonetisation will continue into the 2019 Lok Sabha election cycle, so the 11 March results may be seen as a foretaste of what is in store less than three years from now. Should Bihar CM Nitish Kumar be correct in his assessment that the 8 November measure is a disaster, and the state Assembly election results prove disappointing for the BJP, there will be a significant impact at the Central level. For a start, opposition parties would be emboldened to ensure that an anti-BJP individual be elected as the next President of India. After its defeat, the BJP will find it difficult to get more allies on its side, so as to ensure that the candidate chosen by Prime Minister Modi gets sworn in as the next President of India. Even BJP-friendly politicians such as Navin Patnaik of Orissa or Tamil Nadu’s O. Panneerselvam may find it impossible to back the BJP candidate rather than that of the rest of the opposition, following a 11 March wipeout of the ruling party, should this be the consequence of the anti-cash move announced by the Prime Minister three months back. 
Narendra Modi has shed his business-friendly persona and has metamorphosed into a scourge of the rich, publicly vowing to ensure that the wealthy spend sleepless nights under his dispensation. Income tax raids and arrests are likely to multiply. However, India in 2017 is very different from 1972, as these days, what counts to the voter is a change in circumstances. In other words, a well-paying job, should employment not rise substantially, anti-rich rhetoric and gestures are unlikely to reverse a mood of disillusionment. Prime Minister Modi needs to be active in changing not simply the size and colour of a currency note, but the very chemistry of governance in the country, a task that would be made much more difficult by a setback in UP.

The Roundtable: Political Roulette — Assembly Polls (NewsX)

This week on The Roundtable, we discuss how the rules of engagement have been changed in the 2017 elections. For instance, a Haryanvi-lead party is ahead in the state of Punjab. BJP is trying to re-invent itself all over the country reaching out to the Congress vote bank.

Discussing all this with us on The Roundtable we have Hartosh Singh Bal, Political Editor of The Caravan; Virendra Kapoor, Political Analyst; & Madhav Nalapat, Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian in conversation with our Senior Executive Editor, Priya Sahgal.

For More information on this news visit:
Connect with us on Social platform at:
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel:

Friday 10 February 2017

Jayalalithaa Jayaram passes into history (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat| Geopolitical Notes From India

THIS columnist knew Jayalalithaa Jayaram, easily the most popular politician in Tamil Nadu, from the 1980s. Despite the absence of a surfeit of formal education, and in contrast to several public perceptions about her, Jayalalithaa was very well read, devouring up to six books each week. Speaking in flawless Tamil or in equally good English (depending on her audience), the former movie star would express her views clearly and confidently. While imperious to those in high position, she was respectful of writers, spending hours discussing literary works with them. Family circumstances led to Jayalalithaa having to work in an unforgiving industry from a young age, but had she her own way in the matter of a career, there is no doubt that she would have preferred to be a professor at a university, teaching history or literature, subjects which fascinated her.
It was in the 1980s that Jayalalithaa came into public life, mentored by Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran, commonly known as MGR, who was Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. MGR was a unique personality, who had genuine concern for the poor. He would often hold durbars, allowing petitioners to meet him with their problems. On many occasions, he would on the spot either take a decision or hand over some money to a petitioner, especially those who were obviously in economic and other distress. Whether it was money to hold the marriage of a daughter or provide for the higher education of a son, party workers knew that if they went to MGR, there was a good chance that he would assist them. Such empathy for the poor ensured that Ramachandran became hugely popular among voters, even in an age when social media platforms were non-existent.
The Chief Minister took a liking for the young lady from Mysore State, and ensured that she starred in several of his films as his romantic partner. The popularity of such films ensured the identification of Jayalalithaa with Ramachandran in the minds of the people of Tamil Nadu, which is why it was his “ reel” partner in 28 films rather than the real partner ( MGR’s wife Janaki) who was accepted as his political heir after the Chief Minister passed away in 1987. Prior to that,on several of his tours of the state,MGR used to take along the vivacious Propaganda Secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and it was during that Jayalalithaa fashioned her public speaking skills, adopting the same pro-poor idiom as her mentor.
In a patriarchy, women are expected to follow the dictates of men, and this has been the case in some situations, such as that of Rabri Devi, a housewife who was made Chief Minister of Bihar by her husband Laloo Prasad Yadav on his disqualification because of being found guilty of corruption. Indeed, men expect to do “back seat driving” where women are concerned. This was the expectation of Congress President Kumaraswamy Kamaraj in 1966,when he himself declined the office of Prime Minister on the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri (who together with P V Narasimha Rao was the best PM India had). Instead, Kamaraj chose the (relatively) youthful only child of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi as Shastri’s successor.
The Congress boss (who incidentally had been a former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) was confident that Indira Gandhi would do his bidding, a delusion that was removed on her first day in office, when she could not find the time to have the extended conversation with the Congress President that he wanted, so as to brief her on the policies he expected her to follow. Later, by 1969, Indira Gandhi veered totally away from the policies favoured by Lal Bahadur Shastri, setting the country back on the Soviet model first imposed on it by 1957 by Jawaharlal Nehru, and which resulted in Pakistan growing at double the speed of India during the first decades of its existence.
To this day, the role of government in India is far more onerous than is the case in any country that has experienced a satisfactory rate of growth, with only Lal Bahadur Shastri moving towards a more suitable system before his demise at Tashkent in 1965 and being emulated by Narasimha Rao, who succeeded in the few modest reforms that ensured a faster rate of annual growth than the 3 per cent or less that was the norm during the Nehru years, and this despite the very low base of the Indian economy during that period. During the 1998 Vajpayee government, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Brajesh Mishra developed an aversion to Jayalalithaa after she made an office assistant respond to a letter from him to her. The Chief Minister’s rationale was that she was the elected head of the state, and hence merited a missive from Prime Minister Vajpayee rather than a bureaucrat.
Unfortunately for her, the bureaucrat in question was way more powerful than any minister, and he subsequently ensured that her requests were, in effect, denied. Every move by an AIADMK minister in the government was held up without explanation, By August 1998 Jayalalithaa had had enough and was contemplating withdrawal of support. Vijay Goel and Manohar Sondhi requested this columnist to make a personal visit to Chennai to convince the Chief Minister to continue support, a mission that was successful as backing was continued. It was the 50th year of the declaration of the Republic of India and this columnist argued to the CM that she should not be responsible for bringing down a national government in such a year, an argument that worked.
However, despite the continued support, the Mishra bureaucratic blockade of AIADMK decisions continued, until finally Jayalalithaa withdrew support in early 1999,precipitating an election that Vajpayee won on the basis of events on the border that took place around that time. Jayalalithaa Jayaram was courageous in holding on to her friends and views. She was sincere in her beliefs. MGR chose wisely in anointing his partner in films as his political heir. Her friends will miss the sensitive lover of books who fought as fiercely for the girl child as any lioness would for her cubs.

Sunday 5 February 2017

Modi must aim for high growth with compliance (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat 

Indian economy must enter into double digit growth mode, else there will be chaos.
Judging by his pronouncements, it has become obvious that what Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi seeks is a transformation of the moral framework of the citizen. Whether it be sage admonitions delivered in “Man ki Baat” or on other platforms, or the snap delegitimisation of 86% of the country’s currency and consequently its informal economy, Modi is implementing steps that he regards as essential to wean the people of India—especially High Net Worth Individuals (HNI)—off their addiction towards personal enrichment through breaking the many rules that successive governments in India have created in an imitation of the British raj. Those who, in the past, saw Prime Minister Modi as being entirely focused on economic growth the way Deng Xiaoping was in China during the 1980s, have been shown to be wrong. What Modi seeks is less the change in Gross National Income that Deng championed than a change in the ethical chemistry of the citizen. He aims to make the citizen “swacch” in thought, word and deed, as the old saying goes. It may not have been properly reported in the media, but the first location to feel the effects of Modi’s drive for cleanliness was the Prime Minister’s House on what was formerly Race Course Road in Delhi, from which was removed lorry-load upon lorry-load of what can only be described as junk. This cleanup was after Modi began to live there. This pile of rubbish had been maintained in situ by less swacch-oriented predecessors, but could not survive Modi.
Deng Xiaoping was not fussy about methods, for all that he sought was faster and faster growth. To him, “whether a cat was black or white did not matter, so long as it caught mice”, a method which oversaw the emergence of China as the world’s second biggest economy, now five times India’s size. Such pragmatism would have been painful to Mahatma Gandhi, for whom “means were everything”, leaving little left for the actual ends of the policies pursued. The Mahatma was so focused on changing the moral attributes of the people of India that there were more than a few occasions when he halted and reversed mass agitations designed to drive the British out because of what he perceived to be moral frailties within the people. A careful study of Prime Minister Modi’s words and actions will show that he too regards the moral uplift of the citizen to be the primary task of his government. Even if growth gets reduced, what is needed, in this view, is the imperative of every citizen being brought to a situation of full compliance, with the laws and regulations in force at that particular time. To Deng, rules were bagatelle. What mattered were results. So those who regarded Narendra Modi as the subcontinental successor to Deng Xiaoping were wrong. To Prime Minister Modi, as to Mahatma Gandhi, “means are after all everything”. And while Mahatma Gandhi relied on Soul Force to change human personalities to the desired behaviour pattern, Prime Minister Modi trusts in the agencies of government to achieve the same result. 
The only way consistent with high growth rates for Modi to ensure that citizens function within the boundaries set by law and governmental edict and yet remain as productive as their kin in countries such as the US is to follow the example of that country. In the world’s largest economy, tranches of activity that are still proscribed in India are deemed legal, with the consequence that it is far easier for an individual (or a business) to function within the bounds of law and thrive in the US than is the case in India.
Prime Minister Modi needs to simplify procedures in India such that it would be as painless and profitable to operate businesses in this country as it is in those that have per capita incomes twenty times what India has. The PM could prevail on North Block to reduce taxes and do away with vexatious procedures, so that tens of millions voluntarily enter into the tax net. As for the Prime Minister’s dream of a cashless society, the day such modes get freed of the taxes and imposts that cling on to them at present, the sooner will citizens embrace cashless methods by their own free will. In contrast, the 8 November 2016 order has forced the abandonment of thousands of businesses and has caused the shedding of millions of jobs because businesses are unable to switch so suddenly from paper to plastic without forfeiting viability. By following a less coercive course, Modi would achieve his goal of Citizen Compliance with Authority in a manner that does not affect the economy the way the current demonetisation has.
And what of the war against Black Money? The implicit identification of all currency as “black” and all bank transactions as “white” omits to take account of the billions of dollars lost every month to India through bank transfers. It fails to take note of the huge volume of licit currency transactions. For example, those paying for petrol with currency pay a hefty indirect tax on such purchase, even if they may have not on the currency they used. The greater the velocity of currency transactions, the higher the number of rounds of expenditure in which taxes will get paid, whether these be direct or indirect. It should be the goal of government to increase such a velocity and to make it ever easier for a politically non-influential citizen to conduct his or her business. India is a short distance away from chaos should the economy not enter into double digit growth mode, and North Block’s attention has to be concentrated on boosting output and overall income.
It is better to lose a rupee of tax and gain twenty in output (and consequently almost certainly more than a rupee more of tax) than to lose twenty rupees of output in the process of trying to gain an extra rupee in tax. 
Those voting for Narendra Modi in 2014 did so in order for their lifestyles to improve. To them, “Acche Din” means faster growth and a life more filled with economic attainment, and not the day when government policy ensures that each citizen be made to practice the Mahatma’s austere lifestyle.

Friday 3 February 2017

‘Coffee club’ vs ‘Tea party’ (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

AS predicted in these columns, what may be termed a “Coffee Club” has been formed after the November 8,2016 victory over Hillary Clinton of Donald John Trump, the 45th President of the United States. Although the opposite in outlook and ideology, the (largely Democratic Party) Coffee Club models itself on the Republican Party’s “Tea Party”, which was formed after Barack Obama took over as US Head of State eight years previous to Trump. Because of pressure from the Tea Party, which had the single point agenda of opposing anything suggested by President Obama, the Republican Party became “No to Obama” party.
Exactly the same way, Coffee Party activists are demanding that the Democratic Party oppose every initiative of President Trump, warning that those lawmakers who fail to do so will be punished in the next election. Their ire is focussed on Senator Chuck Shumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both of whom are traditional Washington Beltway politicians, prone to make compromises, especially with those interests who contribute generously to Democratic Party coffers. Together with members of this establishment in the Republican Party, they planned to ring fence the 45th President with subordinates who had an entirely different policy agenda to his, and who were therefore expected to continue the post-Franklin Delano Roosevelt policy of loyalty to the Wall Street-Atalanticist alliance, that for reasons of ethnic brotherhood put the interests of Europe above those of the US by pretending that support for Europe was in effect support for US interests.
By the close of the 20th century, it was evident that such a linkage was no longer present, and since then, hewing to a Wall Street-Atlanticist policy has resulted in an unbearable financial and geopolitical cost to the US to the benefit of both Wall Street as well as the EU. The failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria are directly traceable to the outdated policies followed by Washington, policies that Trump has openly challenged. The fear within the traditional US-EU alliance is not that President Trump’s new policies will fail but that they will succeed, and hence reveal the fact that the policy paths that have been followed by pre-Trump establishment run counter to US interests.
Hence, they have to ensure that every innovative policy of President Trump’s fails, and this they are seeking to ensure through (a) agitations on the streets (b) creating a media frenzy against the 45th US President (c) internal sabotage from within governmental agencies and (d) use of the courts and the legislature to block each of Trump’s innovative ( ie contra- establishment) moves. For example, while they are willing to facilitate the nomination of those members of the incoming administration who are known to follow the Wall Street-Atlanticist line, they seek to block nominees who instead are loyal to President Trump’s efforts at fashioning and operationalising policies relevant to 21st century needs rather than to an ethno-based anchoring of policies within the Wall Street-Atalanticist basket.
In a manner designed to deliberately mislead, it is Trump’s approach that is getting roasted by establishment media across both sides of the Atlantic as “racist”, when in fact such an odious epithet applies to those who persist in seeing Europe as the sole genuine global partner of the US rather than the continent that has over the past six years outpaced Europe in geopolitical relevance, Asia. And because the Cold War-based retention of Moscow as Enemy Number One is needed to ensure a continuation of the fusion and subordination of US interests to the EU, the Wall Street-Atlanticist alliance is opposing Donald Trump’s move to establish better ties with Moscow. While previous Presidents also occasionally called for such a reboot, they did so from the premise that Russia would remain a subordinate power, increasingly reliant on the Wall Street-Atlantic Alliance and not regain its former importance and autonomy in the global arena.
However, just as the Republican ea Party is in many respects outside the politics and policies of the Beltway, and hence forced the Senate and House of Representatives to oppose even those initiatives of Obama that assisted Wall Street and the Atlantic Alliance, the Coffee Party makes zero distinction between those of Trump’s policies or personnel picks who are loyal to the Wall Street-Altanticist consensus and those who are loyal to Donald Trump’s innovative 21st century ideas. as a consequence, they have been pressurizing Senator Schumer and Representative Pelosi to oppose all the Trump picks, seeking to; paralyse the government by denuding it of individuals who would run the various departments that together comprise the US Administration. In other words,” No Trump”. Of course, two individuals who have been confirmed (with Democratic Party backing) are Defence Secretary Mattis and Homeland Security chief Kelly.
While General Mattis is (together with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus) a part of the Wall Street-Atlanticist stable, General Kelly (while not as yet a subscriber to the Trump post-Cold War doctrine) has an independent bent of mind. Both are known to be excellent officers, and it remains to be seen whether General Mattis will be able to free himself of 1945-era attitudes and implement the innovative concepts sketched out by President Trump in speeches.
During the coming weeks,an all-out effort will be made to paralyse the US President so as to ensure that the administration functions only nominally under his command, but actually within the control of those members of the US Administration who are committed to pre-Trump policies. Through measures such as a staged revolt of officials and by a flood of negative media attention (using networks that have been built between those in the government and the media for decades), the Wall Street-Atlanticist establishment seeks to convert Trump into a Head of State on the UK or India model, lacking effective executive authority.
However, the widening of the war against Trump by the Coffee Club is likely to result in such disorder that President Trump may find sufficient public support to clamp down on all naysayers, thereby rescuing his policies from the wastepaper basket that those whose interests mandate the continuation of the disastrous Cold War policies of past Presidents seek to fling them into. The months ahead will show if Donald Trump can emerge victorious as a change agent, or whether his detractors succeed in neutralizing the business tycoon who has emerged as a global titan.

Thursday 2 February 2017

Will Trump Shun the Golden Cage of Power? (Organiser)

M D Nalapat | USA/Opinion

Those who listened to the inaugural address of the 45th President of the United States, Donald John Trump, may have thought that they were listening to his predecessor Barack Obama’s inaugural speech of eight years ago. In that speech, the 44th President was candid about the toxic hold of special interests on the US government, and how the ordinary citizen was being ignored. Just as Trump did, Obama chastised the US Congress, both the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, for not thinking of the average American while designing laws and pushing for policies to  benefit  a small elite. He called for a new start and offered to govern in a way very different from the past. However, President Obama underwent a metamorphosis immediately after being elected to the world's most consequential office on November 8, 2008 at a time when the US as well as the rest of the global economy were at risk of a worldwide depression because of the greed of Wall Street and the elites across both sides of the Atlantic who were allied with the financial sharks in command of that key location. It was expected that Team Obama would be different, and that he would put in place personnel (and therefore, the policy) very different from either the Bill Clinton or the George W Bush two term presidencies. Instead, Obama ignored key associates such as David Axelrod and David Plouffe when he appointed individuals to Cabinet slots. Both were fobbed off with relatively junior positions, while the top jobs were almost entirely taken by retreads from the 1993-2001 Clinton presidency, and even a few from the Bush period. As Treasury Secretary, he chose an individual, who in his previous avatar, had been among those responsible for the dilution of oversight and changes in the rules for financial institutions that was begun by Bill Clinton and added on to by George W Bush. While these two (and the men they chose for top jobs)  were responsible for the 2008 economic earthquake,  Barack Obama chose precisely the same set of individuals in an administration that had promised change to the voter Eight years later, it is clear that very little change was brought by President Obama to the country which elected him as its Head of State. There is something about very high office that effects a change in politicians that makes them forget their roots and the promises they have made. Suddenly the same people who had been identified as troublemakers and insincere appear as wise counsellors and close friends. The capitals of the world are filled with what may be called the “Permanent Elite”,  whose words and consciences are supple enough to ensure that any leader who reaches the top believes that they are his or her friends. That their advice, although based on self-interest and in support of vested interests, is the best  and needs to be followed. After the votes were cast and the result declared in the 2008 Presidential race, Barack Obama moved away from the very people who had been with him through some of his most difficult days, and embraced those who had mocked him during the time when others and not he held the highest office in Washington. During his second term in office (and especially after Hillary Clinton left the administration to concentrate on the 2016 Presidential race, Barack Obama showed a few flickers of his pre-November 2008 self, especially in the way in which he reached out to Cuba and worked out a nuclear agreement with Iran. Both policies very helpful to the US interests alhough opposed by the Wall Street-Atlanticist alliance that has dominated US policy since the Eisenhower period.
Fortunately for him, Donald John Trump has not followed the collaborationist policy of Barack Obama except in a few instances. Most of his picks for Cabinet and other high level offices are outsiders to Washington, and several indeed have for decades conducted a battle against the bureaucracy. Obviously, this will create frictions in both their nomination process and in their work, but should Trump continue to avoid being “house trained” by the Wall Street-Atlanticist establishment and work out the realism-based policies he has championed for at least the past two decades, his first term in office (2017-2021) will bring much greater change than Obama’s. In his inaugural address, President Trump struck a statesperson like tone, brushing aside differences of race and gender by pointing out that every citizen (white, black or brown) has red blood. Candidate Trump was forthright about the need to ensure better relations with Russia, and to avoid the Saudi Arabia-Turkey-Qatar-France-UK trap of backing Al Qaeda elements in Syria on the excuse that they are “moderate fighters” when even a cursory examination of the speeches and writings of several such individuals would reveal their ultra-Wahabbi orientation. Because President Obama remained committed to most of the policies of Clinton and Bush in West Asia, the region has become a
cauldron of extremism. Although some of Trump’s picks are from the Wall Street-Atlanticist stable, it is reasonable to expect that the strong-willed billionaire will be able to impose his preferences on them rather than follow Obama’s habit of going along with the policies of the Clintonites he empowered following his victory, and who in the final weeks of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign reduced him and his wife to the role of boosters and cheerleaders, travelling across the country reading from points given to him to repeat by the Clinton campaign headquarters. Had President Obama shown the courage to back Senator Bernie Sanders, the candidate who was close to the “old” (pre-victory) Barack Obama, the Vermont Senator may have defeated Donald Trump, a feat that was impossible for a candidate as steeped in a flawed and unpopular past as Hillary Rodham Clinton. Perhaps Obama’s fear was that upon being elected President, Sanders may have actually fought for change, rather than make only the cosmetic gestures that Obama did during much of his two terms in office, and this would have thrown into the spotlight the 44th President’s own caution (or cowardice) in challenging the policies of the Wall Street-Atlanticist establishment the way Donald Trump gives promise of the Oval Office. As  indeed,  the White House is a golden cage that will seek to work its insidious spell on the 45th President of the US the way it has on so many of its earlier occupants. In such a context, it is refreshing that First Lady Melania Trump has declined for the moment to move into the White House, preferring to reside in her New York home with son Barron. In the same way, Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner have declined to move in with the President, and will stay elsewhere as ordinary citizens. President Trump himself has made it clear that for him, it is still New York rather than Washington that is home. These are good auguries, as are the fact that so few of President Trump’s choices for top jobs have come from long stints in the government. Previous administrations were dominated by those who had been in government for much of their lives. Donald John Trump was chosen by voters because he was an outsider, so if the President had chosen mostly insiders for his team (the way so many predecessors did), that would have been a betrayal of his mandate. His first year in office will show whether President Trump has escaped the anti-citizen effects of the golden cage of power that closed around him on January 20. His first months, indeed, will show whether or not he remembers that he was elected to transform the chemistry of power from the past to the future. Those voters do not expect him to merely sign on to the failed and faulty policies of a Republican leadership that is heavily infused with those serving the interests of the WallStreet-Atlanticist US policy establishment. Trump’s carefully thought out choice of new faces rather than retreads from previous administrations is a sign that President Trump has the will and the courage to stay true to the promise of change made in his January 20 Inaugural Address. It gives the world confidence that he will not follow the example of Barack Obama, who once in office embraced the very establishment he had warned against and fought against during the electoral campaign, and who joined hands with Hillary Clinton in the unethical marginalization of the Democratic Party leader who may have defeated Donald Trump on November 8, 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders.